How do we ready ourselves for Mother's day? As we begin to think of lunches, family gathering and gifts exchanged I want to challenge you to take a moment to thank your mom not just with a material gift but simply remembering the times she chased the monsters away, the days she sat next to your bed, feeding you soup, or when she was up late finishing that report you forgot. Being a mom is never easy. It's down right exhausting to be honest, we are always three steps ahead, to have to take one back. Now try mixing it up and throwing something like cancer in the mixing bowl. Sure the path of least resistant may look tempting, but then where would we be as moms? I really don’t understand why life brings pain and uncertainty but I do know this: While it is true pain holds no mercy sometimes the pain does hold grace. Maybe, just maybe, the pain life brings each of us isn’t so much about the hurt as much as it is about the journey, the dance and the beauty inside the clearing just ahead of us beyond the trees. Maybe, as mom's it’s about overcoming the struggles, finding the victory in life’s everyday joys before we come out of the darkness and into the sun! As mom's this is our dance, even if it is in the falling rain of illness. Bitterness may try to push in around us but I promise no matter how beat down we may become grace and love continues to hold us together as a family even if we are left holding a broken vase and our hands are super glued to the chair.
I am celebrating my 15th Mother's Day this year. To say I have seen a lot is an understatement. It's funny I have been asked many times what has breast cancer done to me, as a mother, how has this beast personally changed your life Christina? How has cancer changed your life a mom, a wife? To be truthful I am sometimes stumped by these questions, frankly because I generally don't focus on how much or even what I have lost or what the beast has broken inside me, I am usually trying to just be the mom I need to be despite the scars cancer has left on both my body and spirit. Before the cancer came I was a mother, a wife and I was happy with my ordinary life. Then the C word became a reality, as the beast stamped her intent across my chest. I was still a wife, a mother and nothing really changed with the one exception cancer and and her Grimm tended to hover in the dark shadows of my room at night. I still tucked my babies into bed at night, with kisses and hugs, reading stories that made us laugh, and our goodnight prayers stayed the same, with the new addition of asking God to let mommy live. Ok let that settle in while I pause to catch my breath,to wipe my tears away as I think about how my kids were caught in the middle of life and death, Man this still haunts me, breaks my heart and shatters me in more directions than I can account for.
My babies were crying out to God, to please let their mommy live, not to take her from them as we spent Mother's Day that first year, my head shinning and bald. The thought of my boys pleading, not yet God please don't take mommy to heaven, the tears still fall from my eyes as I recall their small, tender, pleading voices, eyes closed tightly, hands in mine. I saw the bullying they faced, as kids taunted the boys about their ugly mom with no hair, no eyebrows. To those few I was a freak, and the boys were the sons of this freak. Life was not easy, no matter where we went folks stared, pity flowing or contempt recoiling in their faces. Fathers would sit with their children, chairs turned in our direction, mouths open, hitting the ground and eyes like radar on the freak sitting in the booth trying to eat her first meal in days. The turmoil, the lofty glances were overwhelming for me, for Johnny but for the kids they were indescribably painful, as they became the center of a freak show.
When cancer banged on our door, the monsters under our children's beds become very real, clawing through their dreams, roaring, stalking , enforcing the fear of mommy's passing. I struggled with the fear their little hands would begin to slip out of my hands. How were they coping, still smiling they came face to face with their own monsters creeping out from under the bed at night? I had heard the whispers calling my own name , struggling with driving the monsters under the bed from not only my room, but theirs too. Goodness, I had been face to face with Little Miss Reaper packing an attitude so many times I didn't flinch anymore. Her sickle and dark pink robes stalking , trying to control me, crawling out from under my bed, peaking out from the closet more times than I'd like to think about. Seriously how do we capture and keep our kids innocence during such times as these? Can our love and resolve be enough for them too? Nothing on earth can move us more as mothers as when our children are hurt or when they face their fears. I know because I have watched both my boys sport pink shirts proudly, hold my hand when all their buddies where watching and walk closely next to their bald mother while all eyes where watching them and the creepy lady missing her eyebrows. In the time since breast cancer charged into our lives I have seen such strength and courage in our children, in their love for life, the hope for tomorrow and the strength to deal with each and every blow the beast has delivered them. By the boys daily focus and inspiration I have learned to laugh and giggle and without knowing it Joshua and Micah have taught me to be brave despite the fire breathing dragon an inch away from my nose!
Life as we battle cancer is much like living upside down in one of Alice in Wonderland's adventures, chemo is comparable to sitting down with the mad hatter for tea and losing a breast felt as if I was listening to the Red Queen scream, " off with her head" with the exception she was after my breast. I can't tell you how many times we longed to be normal, yet we always end up white roses in an all red rose garden, out of place, undesirable and needing replacing or a disguise of some sort to be accepted, wanted and not throw out with the trash. Come on, how do you ready yourself for such times as these? Honestly I have no idea,there is nothing shouting to me from my box of tricks, but what does resound in my heart is this: tuck away hope in your heart, dig it deeply into your soul, stitch hope into your spirit and allow the deep waters of faith drag you out of the shallow end of despair, wearing your floaties if need be.
Gathering with folks we always felt "on", must smile, must be happy, must show no weakness, even if we were hurting, when life felt as if it was slipping away, when I was not sure I had the desire to survive the worry and the constant beat down cancer was giving me everyday, I knew I had to be strong even if my legs were wobbly. Chemo was expected not to break me after all Christina could handle it, she could do this, tackle this without anyone to help her stand strong. I knew I should be strong, rah rah in between pucking my guts up but truthfully all I wanted to do was cry, ask for someone to hold me, tell me I was not in this fight alone. Now don't get me wrong, I had one dear and precious friend who rallied around me, never left me crawling in the dark for the door, but all those folks who had been our friends before suddenly found other avenues to travel, away and apart from us. It was crushing, but to the boys it was devastating. So many times I had to remind myself to steady my heart, to let go of the fear, of the pain and look square in the eyes of my Lord and fall completely into His arms where he was ready to provide refuge. I can't know what the end will hold, what the end of the story will bring, but I know nothing in this life is predicable. So many things can be unbearably painful if not completely catastrophic and it's easy to allow them to overtake us. Breast cancer is one of those things. She sure came into our lives with a sudden jolt! Life changed in a scary and terrifying way for all of us, my boys included. But as time began to pass , as this cancer monster took hold of my body I had rise above the terror of dying and realize I belonged to God and begin teaching my children to live life out loud, outside of the box, in spite of the beast breathing down our necks. In the years since the beast has come barrelling through our front door, my husband Johnny, the boys and myself, we have made so beautiful memories that may not have been afforded us otherwise, we have rejoiced in the victories and held our hope close even while through the beasts dark eerie marshes of horror.
Cancer is a lonely place, so the truth is my faith has not always been on track. The author of my salvation has had to wait on me many more times than I care to admit, calling me by name, whispering hope into my ear, waiting for me to reach out my arms to Him. Every ditch, mile, speed bump and sink hole I have climbed out of or gone through with my boys, with Johnny, has been because of His grace. I have struggled, cried out, even voiced my discontent to the God I call Father protesting all the whys of His plan in every bit of this craziness. Seriously I have asked God many times, why the the nightmares, the tears and the sleepless nights, why my children have been required to face such misery. But then I've thought about the men my boys will grown into one day, what kind of husbands and fathers they will become. I have struggled with the emotional burdens both boys carry and the scares this life in wonderland will leave stitched across their lives. I have worried, tossed many nights over what I will leave both boys in the end.
As a mother and a breast cancer survivor I have looked at my boys at times with double vision. I have seen what life should have been, could have been if the boobie beast had skipped over us. But like all the other changes in our lives I also have seen what life has become since the enemies full on assault. My eyes have been opened , seeing true beauty surrounding not just my life, but all of our lives. I have experienced unending love like never before and felt such grace break the chains locking me to my own resentment and the fears I foresaw as death's impending blow . Honestly at the end of each day , I find living to be beautiful despite the cancer. Yes breast cancer can be powerful and earth shattering but it can also fill us with strength and determination, awakening our inner depths of grace, hope and revolutions if we will just take off our glasses of discontent. My view on life now, even when I can hear the beast's roar in the distance, is this: faith arises and life becomes beautiful, tender, precious, humorous, heartbreaking and inspiring if we can just believe our heartaches are just blessings in disguise.
My Mother's Day gift, my blessings come in the form of my children... to live every moment determined to rise above the turbulence even if it may be my last. So I say: Be ready to take a deep breath, shake off your fears and go. Why, well, because when all is said and done, when life has completed it's course around the sun you will have lived life with no apologies. I love this quote, just as Jamie in A Walk to Remember says, " Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I had for myself. " By trail and application, I have found no greater love has ever been given to me, as my children. This mother's day, as I fall to my knees in thanksgiving and prayer for my family,I can walk in this knowledge and embrace the hope that has come into my life by the trails of breast cancer. Love has been poured out and no matter where the journey ends I know there's a plan greater than ourselves, because God's love is greater than any monster under the bed's. Because of God's amazing love, His grace, and the joy, determination and hope my children give me daily I can accept what may come with the knowledge I have truly lived a life to be remembered ...monsters and all under the bed.